Good news and bad news for people who were worried about how BJ Penn might react after demoralizing, back-to-back losses to Frankie Edgar this year: On the positive side, Penn’s not hanging it up. In fact, he says in the above vid with Fighters Only Magazine that he’s intent on fighting even more often and actually sounds like a 22-year-old “TUF” rookie just embarking on his UFC career when he starts talking about how he’s still tweaking his training and trying to figure out what works best for him. For a dude who in times past appeared cripplingly preoccupied with his place in the history of the sport, that renewed sense of himself has to be a good thing.
So, the bad news? Well, he and Matt Hughes are cool now, which pretty much takes all the fun out of the pair’s upcoming third meeting at UFC 123. Frankly, if this fight isn’t a grudge match, then it’s not immediately clear why anyone is supposed to care about it, let alone watch.
“I have a compassion to fight Matt Hughes,” Penn says at the 3:05 mark, though we’re not sure the word ‘compassion’ means exactly what he thinks it means. “We are — in a way — rivals, I guess. Definitely, if you would’ve asked me six years ago if I liked Matt Hughes I probably would’ve said no. If you asked me today … you know what, I have closer friends, we’re not close, but there probably isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for Matt Hughes if you asked me. Time heals all wounds. Time changes things. I’ve got no animosity toward Matt Hughes whatsoever.”
Yep, that’s a major buzzkill.
Penn vs. Hughes 3 was a weird piece of booking to begin with, given that Penn is coming off two consecutive losses at lightweight and Hughes most recently has put together two wins at 170-pounds. On the surface, the matchup only seemed halfway interesting because, A) Hughes and Penn don’t like each other and B) BJ needs to avoid his third straight loss.
Reason B is obviously severely undermined by the simple fact that a loss here only means Penn has to go back to lightweight and beat up someone like George Sotiropoulos or Clay Guida. If Hughes and Penn don’t even hate each other anymore then it’s hard to view this as anything other than a fight between two old-ish dudes in different weight classes who are just playing out the string to it’s inevitable end.
I mean, it’s fine, but it’s probably not going to help sell a pay-per-view that is so far otherwise hanging its hat on Lyoto Machida’s certain destruction of Rampage Jackson and appearances by a bunch of B-listers like Mark Munoz, Karo Parisyan and Tyson Griffin.